Course Review: Bob Vogel World Class Pistol Skills – Part 2

Handguns are the most difficult firearms to shoot accurately. They have a relatively short sight radius, a relatively light weight, and the user is stuck trying to control the weapon with relatively small muscle groups. This is why trigger control is such a key factor in shooting a handgun well.

Bob Vogel lectures about his dryfire routine.
Bob Vogel lectures about his dryfire routine.

By “trigger control” I mean the ability to press the trigger to the rear without disrupting the sight picture of the firearm that you’re shooting. It sounds simple enough, but on a handgun we run into a physics problem right off the bat. The typical handgun weighs around 2.5 pounds fully loaded. The typical trigger pull on a handgun is well over 2.5 pounds. Glock triggers are often discussed in terms of their connector rating (standard for many years was 5.5 pounds) but in reality once you add in resistance from the springs the weight of the resulting trigger pull is usually around 1.5 pounds heavier than the rating on the connector. So to pull the trigger to the rear on a Glock you’re exerting force on the trigger that is more than double the weight of the pistol itself…which means the pistol is prone to move around in your hand (disrupting the sights) as you attempt to fire it. A solid grip, of course, helps stabilize the pistol against the torque you are applying to the trigger but the faster you try to shoot typically the more torque you are applying to the trigger.

Then, of course, there is the phenomenon of anticipation. When a handgun is fired the physics involved drives the muzzle up and back once the bullet has left the barrel. Most shooters will also note that there is movement away from the dominant hand…so a right handed shooter will likely see that the weapon moves back and to the left. We naturally want to fight that by trying to pull the gun back down on target. Anticipation is when we start to fight the recoil before the bullet has left the barrel, pulling the pistol down and away from the strong side. This results in low, left shots from right handed shooters.

To have any hope of hitting anything, it’s crucial for a shooter to learn how to properly press the trigger to the rear and not get ahead of the actual gunshot with their attempt to control the recoil of the pistol. How do they learn this? Dryfire.

Mr. Vogel spent quite a bit of time talking about his dryfire routine both as part of his usual lecture and in response to questions from the students in the class. People often think that top level shooters fire hundreds of thousands of rounds in a year but that’s not always the case. Mr. Vogel told the class that while he does train with live fire more than the average shooter, the majority of his skill was built with dryfire exercises at home. His approach to dryfire is unique, as he’s the first person I’ve encountered who doesn’t teach resetting the firing mechanism of the pistol for each trigger pull when dryfiring. As you can see in the video he’s doing a significant percentage of his dryfire training on a dead trigger.

 When I saw this it was so foreign to what I was used to that my prejudices kicked in and I thought there was no way on earth pretending to pull a dead trigger could possibly be useful. Then the rational part of my brain reminded the rest of it that Mr. Vogel has a lot more titles to his name than I do so perhaps paying attention would be wise. As the old saying goes, if it seems silly but it works, then it isn’t silly.

Mr. Vogel stressed intensity in dryfire training, meaning doing every bit of it as if you were on the range firing live ammunition. This means training to acquire his grip just as he does when the gun is loaded and even when working with a dead trigger “pulling” it with the same intensity and focus he would have during the real thing. It takes mental discipline to “work” a dead trigger like it’s the real thing, but believe it or not after a little bit you get the hang of it.

 The dead trigger pull also turns out to be a useful diagnostic tool. While I’ve shot Glocks quite a bit over the years, I haven’t really used one in a class where I was pushing as hard on speed and accuracy as I was in Mr. Vogel’s class. Shortly into the first day it was clear that the majority of my shots with my Glock 34 were grouping to the left. I had zeroed my pistol with the Warren sights well before coming to the class but I thought perhaps they had been bumped or loosened up some with the live fire and needed to be adjusted. I was just about to break out the sight tool when Mr. Vogel had us aim in on the targets and try dryfire on a dead trigger the exact same way we would be pulling the trigger at speed if we were doing a Bill drill. Still struggling with the concept in my mind, I did manage to do it right once…and when I did, I saw the front sight jump to the left.

 Part of the reason for this push to the left was that I was actually tensing up my shooting hand right at the last little moment of trigger pull, something I didn’t even realize was happening during live fire or even with my typical dryfire practice. It was invisible until I tried working with intensity against a dead trigger. (If it seems silly, but it works, then it isn’t silly.) Some folks also find that the nature of the Glock’s trigger, particularly the overtravel, tends to manifest this push to the off-side. I figure it’s probably a combination of that Glock factor and my own mistakes magnifying it to the point that my shots grouped to the left extreme of the A zone and into the C zone.

I’ve since tried the same drill with my other pistols (H&K P30, S&W M&P, 1911, revolvers) and it’s only with the Glock that I have this tendency to torque the gun to the left as I’m trying to pull the trigger. Lots of other shooters experience the same phenomenon, enough so that some sight manufacturers actually offset their sight notches slightly to compensate for right handed shooters pushing shots to the left with the Glock. It’s clearly something that I need to work on even if I never fire another shot from a Glock pistol.